The Republican-dominated state legislature in Arizona voted Thursday to strip Democratic secretary of state Katie Hobbs of her election-related authority and diverted that power to Republican attorney general Mark Brnovich.
The measure, which the House passed late Thursday, now goes to Republican governor Doug Ducey’s desk for his signature. The legislation transferred exclusive control over election lawsuits from Hobbs to Brnovich until January 2, 2023, which could amount to one election cycle. Brnovich had alleged that the secretary of state was ill-equipped to field the lawsuits against the state that aimed to expand ballot access and ease voting restrictions.
On Friday, Hobbs called the action “egregious,” claiming that the GOP is “weaponizing the process to take retribution against my office.”
Hobbs denounced the independent 2020 election audit in Arizona, spearheaded by the state’s Republican senate, in which Maricopa County became entrenched in accusations of voter fraud and irregularities surrounding its ballot tally. The audit applied to 2.1 million ballots in the county’s jurisdiction, where Joe Biden defeated former President Trump by about 10,000 votes, and contracted the services of the small cybersecurity company and first-time election auditor Cyber Ninjas to conduct it.
Hobbs’s opposition came as the Biden Department of Justice (DOJ) voiced its concern that the Arizona election audit could normalize voter intimidation or inadequate security for ballots in future elections. The DOJ’s civil-rights division’s principal deputy assistant attorney general, Pamela S. Karlan, wrote a letter to Arizona senate president Karen Fann expressing concerns about the maintenance, handling, and potential tampering of election records.
“We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss,” the letter read.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Hobbs said the lack of transparency behind the methodology and procedures in the election audit does not inspire confidence in the credibility of the results. She said the objective of the audit was to “undermine the integrity of our elections.”
“To perpetuate the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen, which is damaging to our democracy in and of itself. It lays the groundwork for the loser in any election to demand this kind of audit,” she said.